The other day, Abbie and I went to sign up for T-ball in our community. We just moved here in June, so the fields and the buildings were all new to me. Nor did I know anyone who might be at the registration. It was an awkward experience.
- When we pulled up, there were no signs directing anyone where to go. I knew we needed to go to the League Offices- but which building? Which door?
- When we found the right building, we entered inside and had two choices of rooms to go in. No one greeted us. There were no signs to tell me which room I needed to be in. So I picked one.
- We waited patiently in line to register (about 5 minutes) and when we go to the table I was told that I was in the wrong line. I had to go to the other room to fill out paperwork. Again- no sign directing anyone. No one welcoming and asking if we need any help.
- While I filled out paperwork in the other room (again, not greeted by the people working the room), the audible conversation in the room was between two coaches discussing a particular players lack of commitment and practice at home. I felt bad for whoever this player was that the coaches feelings about them was being broadcast to a total stranger (me!).
I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve had a similar experience in our previous league.
But I also pastor a church- and I wonder how often people have that conversation after visiting my church or a church like mine. It’s not too often that I get to visit a church on Sunday morning, but I believe that my experience mirrors the experience of first time guest in churches.
- How many doors does your church have? When guest pull into your parking lot, is it clear what door they are to go in? Are there greeters in the parking lot and at the doors to welcome and direct?
- Once inside, are there attractive and clear signs that inform guest where they can find the nursery? Restroom? Worship space? Are there people on the lookout for first time guest in order to assist them and make the feel welcome and comfortable?
- When leaders and regular gather before/after worship, are we engaged in conversations with our friends? Or are we actively looking to connect with new attenders? Are the conversations that we are having God-honoring? Or would they turn a guest away if they heard us?
If I were looking for a church to get involved with that resembled my experience in the Little League registration, I wouldn’t come back. The way we expect, prepare for, and receive guests tells a lot about our church culture and whether or not our arms are open to new people in our community.
At the church I pastor, Hope Church, we are taking a fresh look at the culture of our church and the experience that guest have when they pull into our parking lot, enter our doors, worship with us, and when they are sent out into the world. My desire is to remove as many barriers as we can in our hospitality, environment, and culture in order that each person might receive the gift of God’s presence in worship.
I’m looking forward to the baseball season. I’m sure that everyone at registration is quite friendly and that Abbie will have a great time. And I’m excited to work with leaders at our church to create a culture that welcomes the our neighbors into a community that makes up the body of Christ.
Have you experienced an intentional culture of hospitality in a church that really made you feel welcome? What did they do?
I frequently visit Charleston, WV. I always go to the same church when I am in town because I know some people there, like the music, etc. In October, I stepped out of my comfort zone and visited another parish. Wow! From the moment I got out of my car, people were welcoming me. I know a lot of people in the diocese including the secretary of this church (but she wasn’t there to blow my cover). A sign in the parking lot indicated which of the many entrances to use. After I entered the door, two greeters welcomed me and a priest said hello as he was walking down the hallway. The church was packed so there were others to greet but I felt in the moment with the two greeters which was nice. Even worship was welcoming. It was a multicultural church (only 50% white) Anglican chant with West Indian praise. As I was leaving, a woman offered to direct me to coffee hour. I didn’t stay but she handed me a welcome bag on my way out the door. The bag contained mints, pocket tissues, a pencil, and a post it pad. It also contained church info. Hospitality works. The church was packed which is saying something for an Episcopal church in Southern West Virginia.
Thanks for you post John! Sounds like the church you visited has a great culture of hospitality! It feels good when we’re made to feel like a church is expecting us as guest. Thanks for sharing!